My wife and I and two other couples were going out to eat one evening.
I suggested one of my favorite restaurants–Surin West in 5 Points South.
One of the women said, “I don’t feel safe around some of the people who hang out at 5 Points.” The other woman quickly agreed.
So we chose another restaurant in a different neighborhood.
I’ve always had a deep affinity for 5 Points South since I grew up nearby.
I attended South Highland Elementary School; watched movies at the 5 Points Movie Theater; got my hair cut at the 5 Points Barber Shop; and bowled at the 5 Points Bowling Alley.
There are definitely some successful high profile restaurants in 5 Points, but the surrounding neighborhood and business district could be so much more.
I’m one of the original Board Members and a past President of the City Action Partnership (CAP).
You may recognize CAP Officers as the men and women in red shirts and black pants who ride their bikes downtown.
CAP Officers give directions, jump dead batteries, air up flat tires, provide security escorts, rescue keys from locked vehicles, and remove graffiti. The service is free–as the program is supported by the property owners inside the district.*
While CAP can’t totally take credit for our downtown renaissance, many people believe that CAP has created the environment that has allowed the revival of downtown, Parkside, and Southside.
But the CAP district does not include 5 Points South and the surrounding neighborhood.
The Board of CAP with the support of REV Birmingham has made numerous attempts to expand into 5 Points, but many landlords in the area have shown little interest.
Yes, the landlords would have to pay an annual fee, but they would ultimately be more than compensated with increased property values and higher rents.
Don’t take my word for it. I’ve never heard a downtown property owner say he would rather give up CAP and save a few dollars.
The 5 Points area is now feeling competition from new businesses and restaurants in Uptown, Lakeview and Avondale. A CAP presence would give 5 Points a competitive advantage.
I’ve talked with several 5 Points business owners who support a CAP district, but they feel they don’t have the clout to convince some of the stubborn property owners.**
That is nonsense.
A few years ago, Frank Stitt, owner of Highlands and Chez Fonfon, and other high profile 5 Points business leaders stopped Chick-fil-A in its tracks when it tried to build a drive through.
Even UAB has volunteered financial support.
Expanding CAP into 5 Points South would be much more transformational than stopping a restaurant from allowing cars to drive around its building.
Crime has decreased by 72% in the CAP district downtown since it was established and CAP removed 253 pieces of graffiti downtown in October alone–there is graffiti all over the 5 Points South area.
Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable visiting offices, shopping, and eating in 5 Points if you were surrounded by the support and security provided by CAP?
*CAP District bounded to the north by 11th Avenue North (including the Civic Center) south to 5th Avenue South, east to 22nd Street and west to 16th Street North & 18th Street South. CAP also serves Railroad Park and Children’s of Alabama.
**Property owners signatures must represent 67% of the total property value of the area to establish a new district.
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David Sher is co-CEO of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).